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Greenbelt Arts Center You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

By • Jul 20th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Greenbelt Arts Center
Greenbelt Arts Center, Greenbelt, MD
$18/$15 Seniors and Students
Playing through August 1st
Reviewed July 18th, 2009

Based on the Comic Strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz
Book, Music and Lyrics by Clark M. Gesner

Question: What do you get when you cross seven talented performers with a comic strip that’s so well known, 42 comic artists paid homage to its creator the May following his death?

Answer: You get You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, now playing at the Greenbelt Arts Center.

You also get fine family entertainment of the sort where you can feel comfortable bringing even the younger kids. This show has singing, dancing, and Snoopy! Who could ask for anything more, really?

The white-walled, bare stage serves as a reminder of the show’s print genesis and gives the actors plenty of space to move, which they do quite well, thanks.

Performance highlights include three Steves: Steve Cargile as Charlie Brown, the perennial nice guy who finishes last, Stephen Backus as Linus Van Pelt, thumb-sucking philosopher and Steve Love, frenetic and fabulous as Snoopy. The ensemble is completed by Dana Robinson, the height of crabbiness as Lucy Van Pelt, Ryan Tucci as aspiring classical pianist and artistic soul Schroeder, Lauren-Nicole Gabel as the ever-confused, always-optimistic Sally Brown and Natalie Magee, a dancer who gives us her all playing everything else from Woodstock and Charlie Brown’s kite to Linus’ blanket, including the Little Red Haired Girl.

(Note: If you’re familiar with the original music from the original 1967 cast album, you’ll note several changes, including the substitution of the character Sally Brown for Patty and the addition of the song Beethoven Day. This production is from the 1999 revival, rather than the original book and score.)

Best numbers include “My Blanket and Me,” Linus’ love song to his favorite blue companion with a dance duet to rival Astaire and Rogers, “Rabbit Chasing” (interspersed with “The Book Report,” the perfect illustration of interpretive creative writing as seen by primary school students, “Glee Club Rehearsal,” (which I can’t describe without giving away the ending!) and “Little Known Facts” (malapropisms galore), and “Suppertime,” Snoopy’s ultimate celebration of dinner. It all leads to the expression of understanding that makes the final number one you want to hum after the show ends: “Happiness,” one of my favorite musical theatre pieces, performed with love and, well, you can guess…

The most pleasant surprise? A musical where the singers aren’t outstripped by the music. Jeff Lesniak (Director and Conductor), Jennifer DeLong (co-Musical Director) and Denise A. Levien (Producer and so much more) head up the creative team behind the show.

My take? If I could find the time, I’d probably see it again, just for the last two numbers in the show. Take the opportunity to get out of the heat and go! If you haven’t been to the Greenbelt Arts Center yet, this is a good place to start!

The play continues its run Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm through August 1st, and one remaining 2pm matinee (July 26). Tickets are priced at $18 ($15 for Students/Seniors). Reservations and information are available at 301-441-8770 or by visiting www.greenbeltartscenter.org.

Director’s Notes

“Peanuts” has always been one of my favorite comic strips, and not just because of the fact that it’s creator, the late, great, Charles Schulz, is from the same state I am, and went to the same college that I did.

It brings us back to a simpler time, before jobs, mortgages, and home repairs; back to a time of baseball games, flying kites, and curling up in the corner with a good blanket and sucking your thumb. When our biggest worries were whether or not our teacher would like our artwork, if the little red-headed girl would notice you, if the Sopwith Camel would finally defeat the Red Baron.

It lets us remember when the little things made us happy, catching a firefly, ice cream, telling the time, climbing a tree. These lovable characters: Charlie Brown, his faithful dog Snoopy, little sister Sally, and friends Linus, Lucy and Schroeder, help us to realize what is really important in life.

This script takes place during “An average day in the life of Charlie Brown.” He never had a day exactly like this, as it is more of a collection of moments picked from all the days of Charlie Brown, from Valentine’s Day to baseball season, from wild optimism to utter despair, all mixed in with the lives of his friends and strung together on the string of a single day, from bright uncertain morning, to hopeful starlit evening.

Enjoy the show. Hope you enjoy seeing it as much as we enjoy bringing it to you.

Cast Sally (Lauren-Nicole Gabel) & Linus (Stephen Backus)
Cast
Sally (Lauren-Nicole Gabel) & Linus (Stephen Backus)
Lucy (Dana Robinson) & Schroeder (Ryan Tucci) Charlie (Steve Cargile) & Snoopy (Steve Love)
Lucy (Dana Robinson) & Schroeder (Ryan Tucci)
Charlie (Steve Cargile) & Snoopy (Steve Love)

Cast

  • Linus Van Pelt: Stephen Backus
  • Charlie Brown: Steve Cargile
  • Sally Brown: Lauren-Nicole Gabel
  • Snoopy: Steve Love
  • Lucy Van Pelt: Dana Robinson
  • Schroeder: Ryan Tucci
  • Featured Dancer: Natalie Magee

Production Team

  • Director: Jeffery Lesniak
  • Producer: Denise A. Levien
  • Co-Musical Director: Jennifer DeLong
  • Choreographer, Assistant Director, Costume Design, Hair & Makeup Design: Denise A Levien
  • Vocal Coach: J.B. Dunmyer
  • Lighting/Sound Design, Set Design: Jeffery Lesniak
  • Stage Manager: Stephen Yednock
  • Set Construction: Ken DeLong, Jeffery Lesniak
  • Set Painting, Lighting Technician: Shemaya Padua
  • Sound Technician: Alex Marbach
  • Props: Denise Levien, Jeffery Lesniak, Vikki Lesniak
  • Seamstresses: Tom & Roberta Levien
  • Audition Pianist: Christine Wells
  • General Assistance: Vikki Lesniak

Orchestra

  • Conductor: Jeffrey Lesniak
  • Keyboard: Jennifer DeLong
  • Flute/Piccolo: Hayley North
  • Clarinet/Saxophone: Ashlea Younker
  • Violin/Viola: Meagan Frame
  • Bass: Tony Miller
  • Percussion: Larissa Hannon
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is founder and Artistic Director of OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Company (O2B2) and General Manager of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Since 2006 Betsy has worked as a director, producer, designer and more. Betsy has also worked with Washington Revels, Arena Stage, the now-defunct Harlequin Dinner Theatre and with community theatre companies both in Maryland and in upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. Through Hawkeswood Productions, Betsy produces archival performance videos and YouTube highlight spots.

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